Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

Defence of freedom of conscience in US House of Representatives

Congressional Record: November 20, 2004 (House)
Page H10087-H10096
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []

Sean Murphy*


The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act  passed the House of Representatives on 25 September, 2002 and was first introduced in the Senate as S.2008 in March, 2002.  It was re-introduced, with additional sponsors, in July, 2003, but failed to progress.  It was added by congressmen Henry Hyde and Dave Weldon as an amendment to an omnibus spending bill, which passed the House of Representatives in November, 2004.

The amendment was attacked by the House Minority Leader.  Congressman Chris Smith from New Jersey defended the amendment.   The text of his statements appear in the left column.  Project commentary appears to the right.

Mr. Chris Smith (R) of New Jersey.

Mr. Speaker, in 1973, Congress passed the Church Amendment to protect the conscience rights of hospitals and health care providers from being forced into involvement with abortion. The amendment provides that the receipt of Federal funds in various health programs will not require hospitals or individuals to participate in abortions if they object based on moral or religious convictions. It also forbade hospitals in these programs to make, willingness or unwillingness to perform abortions a condition of  employment.

Project Commentary

For historical reasons, the Church Amendment concerned only abortion.  More recent developments around the world indicate a need for more comprehensive protection, including reference to assisted suicide, euthanasia, and artificial reproductive technology. 

Since 1973, and I think many Members know this, various conscience protections, many of which deal specifically with abortion, have been enacted into law.


Unfortunately, over the years, gaps in the protection of existing law have been exploited by pro-abortion organizations which have now undertaken a nationwide campaign to require all health care  providers to participate in abortion.

The "campaign to require all health care  providers to participate in abortion" is actually international in scope, but the international campaign relies heavily on American funding and leadership

That campaign has met with some success, and there are a number of those which I will put into the Record, including trying to compel Catholic hospitals as a condition of a merger and acquisition to provide abortions. In one case in my own State, they compelled a $2 million settlement that had to go into a trust that paid for abortions. That's outrageous.

Why should groups supporting abortion not use their own money to build up such trust funds, rather than using it to fund efforts to force others to participate in the procedure?

To counteract this extreme campaign--to force health care providers to participate in abortion--Federal conscience law when signed by President Bush, will now be strengthened.

Opponents of the amendment should explain why they believe health care workers should be forced to participate in abortion.  Alternatively, they should explain why no effort should be made to protect them from such coercion.

A national battle over healthcare ethics

The principle of the Hyde amendment was that no one should be forced to participate in abortions in any way, and that needs to be affirmed.

It appears that the intended reference here was the Church Amendment .

That is what this Weldon-Hyde amendment will do. The addition of conscience protection to the Hyde amendment remedies current gaps in Federal law and promotes the right of conscientious objection . . .

Promoting the right of conscientious objection does not interfere with the provision of abortion by health care workers who do not object to it.

. . . by forbidding federally funded government bodies to coerce the consciences of health care providers who respect fundamentally the right to life and basic human rights for the unborn.

The amendment is intended to prevent coercion of objecting health care providers, not to prevent abortion.

The Campaign To Force Hospitals to Provide Abortion

Forty-five States and the Federal Government protect the right of health care providers to decline involvement in abortion. Pro-abortion groups seek to abolish these legal protections:

US Protection of Conscience Laws 

Abortion Access Project:

Operating in 24 States, the project's goal is "increasing access to abortion services by expanding . . . the number of hospitals offering abortion services." The project admits that its tactics include "pressuring hospitals" and it does so through both political and legal pressure. The "Hospital Access Collaborative" division reports on the State projects' legal and regulatory interventions challenging mergers.  (accessed 09/07/03).


American civil liberties union--reproductive freedom project: `Religious refusals and reproductive rights.'  The ACLU has published a report and advocacy kit aimed at requiring all hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, to provide abortions. The report argues: "When . . . religiously affiliated organizations move into secular pursuits--such as providing medical care or social services to the public or running a business--they should no longer be insulated from secular laws. In the public world, they should play by public rules."  ACLU, "Religious Refusals and Reproductive Rights," January 2002, page 11,  (accessed 09/10/03).

Coercion is the essence of ACLU policy.

Religious believers are part of the public world, whether the ACLU likes it or not.  There is no reason, apart from anti-religious bigotry, to exclude religious believers from the making of public rules, nor to suppress the expression of their beliefs merely because they are religious.


George Gund Foundation, Pro-choice Resource Center and ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project National Meeting  

"Much of the debate focused on strategy, with participants wonder whether it was better to work toward improving and   narrowing conscience clauses or to fight to eliminate them altogether . . . Although reproductive rights activists should still work to improve conscientious exemptions, [ACLU executive director Ira Glaser] said, their ultimate goal should be getting rid of them.'' See "Conscientious Exemptions and Reproductive Rights," Executive Summary, page 10,  (accessed 09/07/03).

In one session at the national meeting, the group analyzed a same conscience protection which "allowed hospitals, their staffs, or `any other person' to opt out of providing abortions, sterilizations, and contraception if they objected to such services." The participants decided "the measure couldn't be fixed and should be opposed at all costs.'' Id. at page 11.

"To improve conscientious exemptions" in the cited context actually means to minimize them.

The ultimate goal of the ACLU and its allies is to eliminate freedom of conscience in health care.

In other words, "freedom of choice," but only for those willing to choose what the ACLU thinks appropriate.

Maryland NARAL Hospital Provider Project:

"The goal of the Hospital Provider Project is to increase access to abortion services by requiring Maryland hospitals to provide abortion . . .''  (accessed 04/05/2002).

Why is coercion so important to NARAL?  If providing abortion is clearly a good thing, it should not be difficult to convince people to do so voluntarily.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

"While everyone has the right to their [sic] opinions about reproductive health care, including . . . abortion, it is important to remember that the conscience that matters most belongs to the patient . . .Health care providers who object to providing certain services still have an obligation to respect the rights of their patients and to enable them to access the health care they need."    (accessed 09/12/03).


In the case of a woman considering abortion, her conscience is the one that matters most, but only with respect to her own conduct, not that of a health care worker.  Similarly, in the case of a health care worker considering whether or not to facilitate an abortion, his conscience is the one that matters most, but only with respect to his own co-operation or refusal.  The woman cannot decide for him whether he should co-operate or refuse, and he cannot decide for her whether or not she should have an abortion.

Pro-choice Resource Center

"Through its Spotlight Campaign, PCRC [Pro-Choice Resource Center] organizes regional meetings to build a network of opposition to `conscience' or patient abandonment clauses that allow doctors, pharmacists and entire hospital systems to deny women access to services like abortion . . .'' See  (accessed 09/05/03).

"Right now, so-called 'conscience' clause laws are in place in 45 or 50 States, allowing doctors, pharmacists, clinics, hospitals, managed care plans and even employers to refuse to provide, or to pay for, abortion . . . The  MergerWatch program is taking action to expose and overturn  these 'conscience' clauses.'' (accessed 09/05/03).

Clearly, the Pro-Choice Resource Center believes that freedom of choice for all is a bad thing.

Current threats

Unfortunately, gaps in the protections of existing laws have been exploited by pro-abortion organizations, which have undertaken a nationwide campaign to require all health care providers to participate in abortion.


That campaign has met with some success. Novel legal and administrative strategies have resulted in:

● Forcing a private community hospital to open its doors for late-term abortions,

● Denying a certificate of need to an outpatient surgical center that declined involvement in abortion, after an abortion rights coalition intervened in the proceedings,

● Forcing a private non-sectarian hospital to leave a cost-saving consortium, because the consortium abided by a pro-life policy in its member hospitals,

● Dismantling a hospital merger, after abortion advocates approached a State attorney general to challenge the merger,

● Pressuring a hospital to place $2 million in trust for abortions and sterilizations before allowing the hospital to consolidate,

● Attempting to require a Catholic hospital to build an abortion clinic and pay for abortions,

● Threatening a Catholic-operated HMO with loss of State contracts because it declines to provide abortions,

● Prohibiting hospitals from ensuring that the property they sell is not used for abortions.